Reality Hits Reality TV: Homeowners and Homebuilders on ABC's "Extreme Make-Over- in Bankruptcy Skip to main content

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Reality Hits Reality TV: Homeowners and Homebuilders on ABC's "Extreme Make-Over- in Bankruptcy

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In January 2005, a dream came true for the Harper family of Lake City, Georgia: they received a brand new home, courtesy of ABC's "Extreme Make-Over - Home Edition- reality TV show. In a nationwide broadcast, a construction workforce 1,800 strong descended upon the family's neighborhood and spent the next six days demolishing their ailing, humble abode and building a 5,500 square foot comparative palace -“ complete with four bedrooms, decorative rock walls, a three-car garage, four fireplaces, and a solarium. The home was valued at $450,000. It was, at the time, the largest and most ambitious home remodeling project the TV show producers and their builders had ever undertaken.

Undoubtedly thrilled about their new home and its future potential as a long-term investment, the Harpers did what so many other homeowners were doing at the time: they took out an equity loan on the home, probably thinking the value had nowhere to go but up and up. What followed over the next few years, however, is also an all-too-familiar story: the Harpers fell on hard times financially and defaulted on the loan. The lender initiated foreclosure proceedings. The home was scheduled to be sold this coming August. In response, the Harpers filed bankruptcy under Ch. 13, which halted the sale. It remains unclear, however, whether they will be able to sustain the payments under the Ch. 13 plan and ultimately save the home.

Teresa Rose Evans of Fairmont, West Virginia, understands the situation the Harpers face. She too was one of the lucky ones chosen for an "extreme home make-over.- The new home -“ a 2,800 square foot colonial house with four bedrooms and three bathrooms -“ was completed in December 2007 and replaced Evans's crumbling 600 square foot property. The new home has a value of at least $400,000. But Evans fell on hard times herself and, just 10 months after the home was built, she filed Ch. 7 bankruptcy. The bankruptcy trustee intends to go after the home to pay off Evans's creditors.

Some homebuilders and contractors who've sponsored make-overs for the show have run into their own financial troubles of late. Monarch Homes of Wisconsin LLC -“ a luxury homebuilder featured on the show in 2006 -“ filed Ch. 7 bankruptcy in May of this year. The Stone Artist, Inc. -“ a masonry business which did decorative stone work for a house featured in 2007 -“ filed Ch. 11 bankruptcy in September of last year.

The point is, no one is immune from financial struggles or the effects of the current economic downturn. The homeowners featured on ABC's reality show were the envy of millions. But ultimately, they were just ordinary Americans -“ who were, in fact, already struggling with difficult life circumstances when they got their homes. Once all the dust settled and the fanfare was over, they were on their own again. And, in today's economic climate, it's not surprising some of them didn't make it. Same with the homebuilders: their sponsorship of the show -“ and the extraordinary advertising and P.R. value it brought them -“ undoubtedly made them the envy of their competitors. But that wasn't enough to protect them from the disastrous effects of the housing bust. The fact is, the economic realities of the day are tough, and we're all feeling them in some way.

If you're one of the millions of people right now who's struggling to stay afloat financially, contact a bankruptcy and learn how the bankruptcy laws can help you weather this storm. In North Carolina, contact The Law Offices of John T. Orcutt, with convenient office locations in Raleigh, Durham, Fayetteville, and Wilson. Call (toll free) 1-888-234-4181, to set up a free, confidential debt consultation. Visit www.billsbills.com for more information.

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